Pubdate: Tue, 6 Jul 2010
Source: Missoulian (MT)
Copyright: 2010 Missoulian
Author: John Masterson
Note: John Masterson is director of Montana NORML, the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and writes from Missoula.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United States)


There have been several alarming crimes in the news recently, 
reportedly linked to the burgeoning marijuana industry. The lurid 
headlines are leading some to believe that Montana's medical 
marijuana system is broken or even hopeless. Clearly, some changes 
are needed. The ultimate fix, however, is eluding most coverage.

Medical cannabis didn't "cause" the crimes mentioned. Cannabis is 
just a plant, used from time to time by some 100,000 Montanans for 
medical, spiritual, personal or social reasons.

It's just a plant, but a plant that sells for more than any other 
herb or spice on the market. Why?

It takes some skill and experience to reliably grow high-quality 
cannabis indoors. But cannabis requires no fancy laboratory 
processing, no dangerous chemicals, and no special tools or equipment 
beyond those needed for basic indoor gardening.

It's just a plant, less toxic than aspirin, less addictive than 
caffeine, and less intoxicating than alcohol.

It's just a plant, but because of the black market, it still sells 
for $250 to $400 per ounce. For perspective, a single tomato can 
weigh several ounces.

When you have dried flowers that command prices in the range of 
precious metals, it is simply inevitable that violent thugs will 
break the law to steal, hoard, defend and profit from it.

Medical marijuana, while a blessing to many, leaves the criminal 
black market intact, which keeps prices high. That's the reason for 
the violent crimes we've seen recently, not the plant itself.

The solution? Regulate cannabis in a manner similar to how we control 
beer and wine.

Under such a system, licensed producers would be allowed to sell to 
licensed retailers who would be responsible for age verification of 
their customers. These businesses would pay annual licensing fees, 
sales would be taxed (raising an estimated

$24 million annually) and we'd allow adults to produce a personal 
amount in private (just as we do with beer and wine). There would 
continue to be strict penalties for driving under the influence.

Under such a system, the seemingly bottomless well of medical 
marijuana gray areas would be eliminated, the black market would be 
virtually extinguished, and cannabis would become much harder for 
kids to buy because retailers would check IDs (and it would continue 
to be a crime to provide marijuana to minors).

Unbuoyed by prohibition, prices would fall and people for whom 
marijuana is medicine would immediately benefit from ready access 
from multiple licensed retailers. If the experience of numerous other 
states and countries is any guide, general usage rates would not go up.

Regulating cannabis more like alcohol would also embrace principles 
of individual liberty and privacy envisioned and enshrined in our 
nation's and state's constitutions.

Despite the recent headlines, we don't have a "medical marijuana 
crime problem" - we have a prohibition-related crime problem that is 
making the news because marijuana is legal for a small segment of the 
population. If you want to get control of the Prohibition-style 
gangster violence, the solution is to regulate marijuana similarly to 
beer and wine for all responsible adults.
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